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Public Safety Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Public safety occupations include law enforcement, prison security and fire response. Public safety degrees and certificate programs are available at all levels, in a range of fields.

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Essential Information

While public safety programs do not take the place of an agency's required training, such as through a police academy, many programs offer credits that can apply to training requirements.

Undergraduate certificate and associate's degree programs teach the fundamentals of public safety and may include courses in communication, ethics, conflict resolution and the justice system. Certificate programs usually consist of fewer than 10 courses, while associate's degree programs are 2-year programs that include general education courses. Individuals who complete bachelor's degree programs, which include leadership and administrative courses, may be eligible for career advancement. Master's degree programs are often specialized, with students focusing on advanced topics such as homeland security or public administration.


Certificate Programs

Individuals who are interested in starting a career or seeking advancement as a public safety professional can complete various certificate programs that improve knowledge and skills. There are usually no educational prerequisites, and programs are available on campus and online. Some may also offer college credit. Classes may include:

  • Emergency management and strategic planning
  • Communication and conflict resolution
  • Community policing
  • Cultural diversity
  • Terrorism
  • Political and legal systems

Associate's Degree in Public Safety

There are many disciplines offered as part of an associate's degree program in public safety. Some degree programs offer majors in criminal justice, fire science technology and correctional management. These programs teach students about the history, function, operation and future of the different public safety services.

Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent and provide college entrance exam scores. Some schools require students take the College Placement Test (CPT) to assess their academic level.

Students must fulfill general degree requirements along with courses in their major. Classes may include:

  • Introduction to criminal justice
  • Internet fraud investigations
  • Homeland security threat strategy
  • Law enforcement

Bachelor's Degree in Public Safety

A bachelor's degree program in public safety gives students the qualifications to seek advancement beyond entry level positions. Some schools grant college credits for professional experience, corporate training or military experience, making it easier to earn a 4-year degree. These programs teach students about the different types of skills and knowledge needed to perform various public safety jobs.

An associate's degree from an accredited school may be accepted. Official transcripts are needed. A high school diploma is required.

Bachelor's degree programs in public safety are available in classroom and online. Both allow students to take a range of general elective courses, such as:

  • Group dynamics
  • Cultural diversity
  • Human resources
  • Homeland security
  • Ethics
  • Medical services administration

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Community Health and Preventive Medicine
  • Environmental Health
  • Health Physics
  • Health Services Administration
  • International Health
  • Maternal and Child Health
  • Medical Scientist
  • Occupational Health and Industrial Hygiene
  • Public Health Education
  • Public Health Medicine, Treatment

Master's Degree in Public Safety Administration

There are several master's degree programs available in public safety. Graduate students may focus on areas such as security management, public administration or homeland security. Students work on leadership skills while studying ethics, administration and research.

An undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university is required. Some schools impose a minimum GPA requirement and require essays on particular topics.

Graduate level programs focus on integrating theory with actual practice. Students develop research and leadership skills that prepare them for management-level positions. Coursework may include:

  • Counter terrorism
  • Fire science
  • Criminal justice
  • Port security

Popular Careers

There are various career options in public safety, allowing graduates to select the one that best fits their interests. Popular occupations include:

  • Firefighter
  • Crime scene investigator
  • Fire inspector
  • Ambulance dispatcher
  • Law enforcement officer
  • Emergency dispatch/911 operator

A master's degree in public safety allows individuals to pursue a range of occupations. These jobs may include:

  • Plant safety manager
  • Disaster manager
  • Emergency manager
  • Safety inspector
  • Public health specialist

A bachelor's degree in public safety offers many career opportunities. Some of the job choices include:

  • Corrections manager
  • Security officer
  • Investigator
  • Law enforcement officer
  • Criminal justice officer
  • Homeland security agent

A master's degree in public safety allows individuals to pursue a range of occupations. These jobs may include:

  • Plant safety manager
  • Disaster manager
  • Emergency manager
  • Safety inspector
  • Public health specialist

Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), police and sheriff's patrol officers took in an average yearly wage of $61,270 in May 2015, while detectives and criminal investigators earned an average of $79,620 per year. The supervisors of correctional officers made mean annual wages of $62,770 in 2015, reported the BLS.

The BLS reported that emergency management directors earned a mean yearly wage of $73,750 in May 2015. Occupation health and safety specialists made a mean annual wage of $71,790 the same year.

Continuing Education

Graduates may pursue a bachelor's degree in public safety, or they may continue with professional training. This includes programs that lead to industry credentials, such as certification as a Certified Crime Scene Technician.

Students may choose to pursue a master's program, while some may seek other graduate programs, such as law school. There are also certificate programs for individuals who want to continue their professional development.

Individuals may pursue a doctorate degree or complete various certification programs to keep up with changing laws and public safety practices. Also, there are several professional organizations which offer certifications and advanced training for public safety professionals. Classes may include:

  • Firefighting
  • Private security
  • Correctional officer
  • Animal control
  • Leadership certificate

Public safety is a very broad field which includes many careers in the fields of law enforcement, corrections, firefighting, and emergency management. The educational program a student chooses to pursue will play a role in how much specialization or advancement may be achieved within the occupational choice. Generally speaking, the higher the level of education achieved, the more advancement or specialization opportunities available.

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